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Tens of Millions Fear Losing Their Homes or Land in the Next Five Years

By Zoe Tabary

ROME, Oct 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — Tens of millions of people around the world fear losing their homes and land in the next five years and young people feel particularly vulnerable, according to a survey of 15 countries released on Wednesday.

A lack of formal documentation and poor implementation of land laws threaten tenure in many countries, researchers and policymakers said at a presentation of the Global Property Rights Index (PRIndex), which gauges citizens' perceptions.

"Around the world over 40 million people worry that their home or place of work will be taken from them," said Anna Locke from the Overseas Development Institute, a British think tank that is involved in the index, at a launch event in Rome.

"This will affect the way they behave, and their countries' overall development prospects."

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Overall, one in four respondents feared their property being taken away. Those aged 18-24 reported levels of insecurity 10.5% points higher on average than than those aged 55 or older across the countries surveyed.

People in Burkina Faso and Liberia reported the highest levels of concern, with more than two in five respondents from the West African nations fearing their homes could be taken away from them. In Rwanda, it was just 8%.

In Africa alone, about 90% of rural land is undocumented, according to the World Bank.

Respondents cited being asked by their landlord to leave the property as well as family disagreements as the main reasons for feeling insecure.

In Burkina Faso, for example, 53% of women felt they might lose their property in the event of a divorce.

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"Measuring perceptions gives us a much more nuanced picture of property rights," said Malcolm Childress, executive director of the Global Land Alliance, a Washington-based think tank that compiles the index.

"In some countries a legal title might be a reliable source of tenure security, whereas in others it might be meaningless if the government can revoke it at a moment's notice."

About 18,000 people were questioned about ownership or tenure in Burkina Faso, Liberia, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Namibia, Zambia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda, Honduras, Ecuador, Peru, Costa Rica and Thailand.

Over the next year, the poll will be extended to more than 100 countries.

PRIndex is an initiative of the Omidyar Network — with which the Thomson Reuters Foundation has a partnership on land rights coverage — and Britain's Department for International Development.

(Reporting by Zoe Tabary @zoetabary, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit